Friday, April 12, 2024

TV: “Empire” Goes For It Big Time with Two Hour Ratings Buster Season Finale


“Empire”, the TV phemon of the season, went for big time tonight with a two hour finale that was cutting edge and old fashioned at the same time. There were gasps of revelations, cliff hangers, secrets, a possible murder. Or two. It was a Wow from beginning to end. By Thursday noon Eastern time we should know how many millions watched it.

The Lee Daniels-Danny Strong soap opera recalls the best and most exhilarating, crazy and delirious moments of “Dallas,” “Dynasty,” “Falcon Crest” and daytime dramas. The main difference is that nearly everyone is black. And the actors are the creme de la creme, top notch black thespians who’ve mostly been in movies: Oscar nominees Terrence Howard, Gabourey Sidibe and Taraji P. Henson, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, respected actors Malik Yoba and Derek Luke, guest stars like Patti Labelle and Mary J. Blige, and a ton of talented newcomers.

Did I mention that Naomi Campbell has a recurring role?

Why does “Empire” work? Because it’s about members of a core family struggling to take control of a family company. Sound familiar? They’re the Ewings, the Carringtons, the Quartermaines of “General Hospital.” The formula is so simple and traditional, but this time the “Empire” everyone’s fighting over is a fictional version of a modern Motown. Mom has been in jail for 17 years while Dad has been building the biz. One of the three sons is gay. One of them is married to a white girl. Ready set go.

Tonight we had a bunch of cliffhangers. You know, they will all work out. At the end of next season it wouldn’t be surprising if Terrence Howard’s Lucious, the JR Ewing of the story, is shot in a whodunit. Why not? Howard is just perfect as the selfish, capricious, scheming patriarch. And Henson is superb as Cookie Lyon, the Sue Ellen Ewing of the story. Last night she may have gotten herself an Emmy in a scene where she’s watching the white son of a hostile takeover king try to be a rapper. Taraji just gives a look of masked derision, and steals the whole show.

“Empire” is also fun because it’s a Twitter game. Imagine if Twitter had existed in the 80s. Those soaps would have been the main topic of the night. I was busy Tweeting with other “Empire” fans last night and never had more fun. Can’t wait to see the Twitter results tomorrow.

Let me tell you now– if the Emmy Awards ignore “Empire” instead of embrace it, they will be wiped out. This is the show of 2015, hands down. And imagine a Best Actress category that would include Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington, and Viola Davis. Nirvana.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News